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Charles W. Hawthorne

Charles W. Hawthorne: Venetian lady<br>Sold at Eldred's in 2012 for $20,700

Venetian lady
Sold at Eldred's in 2012 for $20,700

American

January 8, 1872 - November 29, 1930

Having discovered his artistic abilities at an early age, Charles Hawthorne, born in 1872, convinced his parents to let him to move from his childhood home in Maine to study art in New York. At age 18 he worked by day as a dockworker and in a stained glass factory, and by night studied with Henry Siddons Mowbray, Frank Vincent DuMond, George de Forest Brush and William Merritt Chase.

Like Chase, Hawthorne was drawn to lush colors and the richness of oil paint as a medium. Hawthorne enrolled in Chase’s summer school at Shinnecock Hills in 1896 and by the following season had become the artist’s assistant, helping him set up the Chase School and travelling with him abroad.

In 1899, while scouting locations for a school of his own, Hawthorne discovered Provincetown, then just a tiny village at the easternmost tip of Cape Cod inhabited mostly by Portuguese fishermen. Provincetown became the headquarters of Hawthorne’s school, which he named the Cape Cod School of Art.

It was the first summer school dedicated to outdoor “plein-air” figure painting. Under Hawthorne’s thirty years of direction, the school attracted some of the most talented artists and teachers in the country. Like the Impressionists, Hawthorne taught his students to be bold, to avoid drawing and instead put down spots of color: “Let color make form – do not make form and color it”.  

Hawthorne found inspiration in the daily lives of the local fishermen and their families, and his portraits convey a strong sense of character, personality and originality. Like the Ash Can artists, Hawthorne found beauty in the mundane, but his articulation shows the inspiration of European masters and his teacher William Merritt Chase.

Throughout his lifetime Hawthorne won numerous awards and gained a reputation as being a “painter’s painter”. But perhaps his greatest contribution to American art was his teaching. He died in a Baltimore hospital in 1930.

Last updated: April 24, 2012

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